By the end of the twentieth century, Freemasonry had acquired an unsavoury reputation as a secretive network of wealthy men looking out for each others’ interests. The popular view is of an organisation that, if not actually corrupt, is certainly viewed with deep mistrust by the press and wider society. Yet, as this book makes clear, this view contrasts sharply with the situation at the beginning of the century when the public’s perception of Freemasonry in Britain was much more benevolent, with numerous establishment figures (including monarchs, government ministers, archbishops and civic worthies) enthusiastically recommending Freemasonry as the key to model citizenship. Focusing particularly on the role of the press, this book investigates the transformation of the image of Freemasonry in Britain from respectability to suspicion. It describes how the media projected a positive message of the organisation for almost forty years, based on a mass of news emanating from the organisation itself, before a change in public regard occurred during the later twentieth-century. This change in the public mood, the book argues, was due primarily to Masonic withdrawal from the public sphere and a disengagement with the press. Through an examination of the subject of Freemasonry and the British press, a number of related social trends are addressed, including the decline of deference, the erosion of privacy, greater competition in the media, the emergence of more aggressive and investigative journalism, the consequences of media isolation and the rise of professional Public Relations. The book also illuminates the organisation’s collisions with nationalism, communism, and state welfare provision. As such, the study is illuminating not only for students of Freemasonry, but those with an interest in the wider social history of modern Britain.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Introduction; The source and treatment of news; Politics; Suspicion; Religion; Royal endorsement; Membership; Buildings; Benevolence; Overseas news; Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.
'All in all, an unexpected gem, which illuminates an area of Masonic research much overlooked up until this work was published.' Irishfreemasonry.com '... to the serious Masonic scholar and those interested in the wider social history of modern Britain, it [Freemasonry and the Press in the Twentieth Century] is an absolute goldmine as a source of material.' The Square ’This book is welcome because it addresses questions about the decline in associational culture and its appendices contain plenty of easily accessible data. Freemasons are presented as actors, not victims and, more than this, through exploring the relationship of freemasonry with communism, fascism and deference, the author has helped to take analysis of freemasonry into the mainstream of British social history.’ Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism